Polio is a disease that doesn’t really dominate the consciousness of many here: it’s not AIDS, cancer or autism that a lot of the debate about medicine and advancement in healthcare will focus on elimination of the disease. It’s not tough to imagine that there will be a day when the last two documented countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) will be declared polio-free.
Not such a long time ago smallpox was a disease that was considered detrimental to health and it was also horrifically used in war as a mass weapon. But that disease no longer exists now and we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief about that. Through support from both Rotary International and the Gates Foundation, it is possible to bring more awareness to the illness, to be more effective with local campaigns, to help outreach activities and this opinion piece aims to highlight why that should be a priority.
Polio is one of those diseases that is associated with vaccination cards, long queues, young children and appropriate doses. Polio can suddenly infect vulnerable young children and cripple them with paralysis. If you spend on vaccines, then you spend on saving lives. Because this disease affects poor communities, and vaccines are spread out into numerous localities, with transportation as diverse as donkeys, there is a need to stop this disability-inducing illness, right at its tracks. It might be more of a challenge to fight the disease in the last two documented countries but there is every reason to be persistent with the health agenda here: going polio-free for a year isn’t enough!